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Farm Bill Provision Could Nullify State Agricultural Laws

Animal Advocates and State Legislators Call on Congress to Nix Provision that Tramples on States’ Rights

States’ bans on inhumane factory farming practices and many other state laws and rules regulating agriculture are at risk of annulment unless Congress rejects a highly destructive provision adopted by the U.S. House of Representatives in its version of the pending Farm Bill. The Senate version of the Farm Bill does not contain such a provision, and a House-Senate conference committee will now negotiate a final bill.

At a press conference to sound the alarm of these dire consequences, The Humane Society of the United States was joined by state legislators who were attending the National Conference State Legislators. NCSL previously sent a letter to House and Senate committee leaders urging them to strip King’s dangerous provision from the Farm Bill. In the bipartisan letter, New Hampshire Speaker of the House Terie Norelli, D-N.H., and Oregon State Sen. Bruce Starr, R-Ore.—the president and president-elect, respectively, of NCSL—write that the King amendment “would preempt vital state agricultural policies designed to protect the safety and well-being of our farmland, waterways, forests and most importantly, our constituents.” They add that the King amendment “would also have significant economic effects across the states” and would target “state laws that were approved by state legislatures for the purpose of protecting the health and safety of consumers and the viability of our precious farmland and forests.”

The provision in the House bill from Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, could not only wipe out numerous state animal protection laws on puppy mills, farm animal confinement, shark finning, horse slaughter, and even dog meat, but also a wide range of other laws related to food safety, environmental protection, worker safety, labeling and more. Laws such as these in Georgia are threatened by the King provision:

-          Animals

  • Ga. Code Ann., § 26-2-160: Dog meat prohibition

-          Environmental

  • GA. CODE ANN. §§ 12-16-1 to -8, amended by 2004 Ga. Laws 463: Environmental planning

-          Health & Safety

Other examples of state laws that could be nullified by the King amendment are listed here.  

State Sen. Starr, said: “This Farm Bill provision would preempt vital state agricultural policies designed to protect the safety and well-being of Oregon’s consumers and environment. The King Amendment not only violates the tenets of the Tenth Amendment, but would also have significant economic effects across the states, and should be rejected by Congress.”

John Goodwin, director of animal cruelty policy for The Humane Society of the United States said: “State agriculture laws were crafted by legislators, agencies and citizens who know their needs best and should not be overturned by politicians in Washington, D.C. The King amendment is a violation of the Tenth Amendment’s guarantee that states’ sovereign rights cannot be abridged by Congress.”

More than 160 House Democratic and Republican lawmakers wrote to the leadership of their chamber’s Agriculture Committee and expressed opposition to the King amendment.

The HSUS, Humane Society Legislative Fund and a broad coalition of more than 60 groups representing sustainable agriculture, consumer, environmental, animal welfare and other interests are urging conference committee members to omit the provision.

Celebrities have also spoken up including musician Moby and singer/songwriter Ke$ha, who tweeted their opposition.

If King’s amendment becomes law, labeling and other rules for products and ingredients such as artificial sweeteners, maple syrup, milk fat, farm-raised fish, tobacco and additives in alcohol could be swept away. The same for controls on import of firewood carrying invasive pests, rules on pesticide exposure, safety standards for farm workers handling dangerous equipment, and laws restricting practices such as the killing of sharks for their fins and the sale of dog and cat meat.


  • Rep. King has a history of attempting to block animal welfare laws. He has voted in favor of killing horses for human consumption and trophy killing of polar bears even though they are a threatened species. He also voted against disaster response legislation to address the needs of people with pets, passed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and he opposed legislation to crack down on illegal dogfighting and cockfighting.
  • King’s amendment could also nullify six state bans on gestation crates, horse slaughter bans in six states, comprehensive animal welfare standards adopted by the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board, and a raft of other animal protection laws designed to shield farm animals from abuse and extreme confinement.

Media Contacts:

Anna West, awest@humanesociety.org, 240-751-2669

Heather Sullivan, hsullivan@humanesociety.org 240.477.2251

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